The FCC, on February 3, opened a new docket captioned “Establishing a 5G Fund for Rural America.” A joint effort of the Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force, the Wireline Competition Bureau and the Office of Economics and Analysis, it “would make available up to $9 billion in universal service support to deploy advanced 5G mobile wireless service in rural America.”
This docket was first proposed by Chairman Ajit Pai in December of 2019 to target hard-to-serve areas with small populations, rugged terrain, or both, the fund would include at least $1 billion to facilitate wireless deployment for precision agricultural purposes.
In that announcement, Pai said “5G has the potential to bring many benefits to American consumers and businesses, including wireless networks that are more responsive, more secure, and up to 100 times faster than today’s 4G LTE networks…We must ensure that 5G narrows rather than widens the digital divide and that rural Americans receive the benefits that come from wireless innovation.”
The proposed 5G Fund would replace the originally planned Mobility Fund Phase II, which was to provide support to 4G LTE service in unserved areas. The Commission, however, determined that data previously submitted by providers was not “sufficiently reliable for the purpose of moving forward with” the Phase II Mobility Fund.
All filings related to the newly proposed 5G Fund should be submitted in GN Docket No.20-32. Comment dates have not as yet been established in this preceding.
We once again salute the FCC and Chairman Pai for their attention to the critical need for advanced broadband services in rural America. Combined with the recently announced $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, the broadband future of rural America seems to be in good hands.